NASA previewed images of the shuttle Endeavour docked to the International Space Station on Tuesday, the first photos showing the wide sweep of the orbiting science laboratory with one of the U. S. orbiters attached.
The photos, taken on May 23 by European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli while aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule, were requested by NASA to commemorate the role of the shuttle in the assembly of the space station. The shuttle fleet is scheduled for retirement following a final mission aboard Atlantis in July.
In all, NASA released nine images on Tuesday. More still camera photos and video will be released soon, the space agency said. Early Wednesday, the European Space Agency provided a set of images as well.
In order to take the photos, cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev undocked the Soyuz TMA 20 from the station’s Rassvet module and backed away from the orbiting science laboratory to a distance of 600 feet. Kondratyev, Nespoli and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman were ending a near six month stay aboard the station and about to descend to a landing in remote Kazakhstan.
Nespoli made his way from the Soyuz descent module with electronic still and high definition video cameras and into the Soyuz orbital compartment to obtain the imagery. After several minutes of photography through a window, Nespoli rejoined his colleagues in the descent module for the final hours of their long voyage.